by Swami Krishnananda
There are seven gatekeepers to the palace of the Absolute, and they will prevent your entry. These gatekeepers are actually taxation officers. There are seven kinds of tax you have to pay before you are allowed entry into that great magnificence. The moment you take a step in the direction of this great attainment, you will be stopped at the first gate and told to pay your dues. What are the dues?
The first dues—the types of obligation which you have to discharge—are the impulses arising from within yourself in connection with your social relations. There is nothing wrong with society and there is nothing wrong with people, but, generally speaking, something is not all right with your attitude to people. I am not going to speak here on sociology, but you can bestow some deep thought on this matter and find out for yourself what attitude you have towards people outside. Put a question to yourself: Are you justified? Any attitude you have within yourself has to be accepted by the law of the Absolute, so you cannot just go ahead with your whims and fantasies. Whoever has a clear idea as to what it is that one is aspiring for—the great, wonderful attainment—will also know what laws operate in regard to that attainment.
Any contradictory attitude or behaviour from your side in respect of the social atmosphere either by attachment or by hatred should be reconciled, and then you become a general witness of things. When you go above this realm, you cannot carry with you any kind of social prejudice. That has to be shed. Everyone is involved in society. There is a give-and-take arrangement between one person and another person. Whatever you are obliged to give to society for the extent of service it has rendered to you, that obligation has to be discharged. If you have taken nothing, you need not give anything. There should not be a feeling pinching you that some obligation has not been discharged. As I mentioned, the mistake is not in people; it is in your attitude. What you think about people—your thoughts about other people in society, either this way or that way—is the social determining factor in your personal life. You cannot say that you are unconnected with society because every minute you can see how you are connected to other people in the world. This has to be carefully taken care of, and a harmonious relationship between yourself and the atmosphere of society has to be carefully attempted—slowly, not abruptly by taking a sudden step.
In the practice of yoga, there is no sudden step; nothing can be done abruptly. The process of yoga practice is a gradual, wholesome growth from lesser maturity to higher maturity, as a baby grows into an adult. The baby does not suddenly jump into adulthood; it is a systematic, organic, wholesome, complete, mature developmental process into the adult condition. In a similar manner is the whole practice of the limbs of yoga. There is no jump. Some say that there is a ladder of ascent in yoga, which gives the impression that there are rungs, one different from the other—or rather, one unconnected to the others. But here, each rung is organically related to the others. It is not like a ladder that is used to climb to the top of a building, where one rung is not organically connected with another. Here the rungs are vitally connected, and any error at the base will affect the further rungs.
So tell the gatekeeper, “I have no misgivings about human relations, and people have no misgivings about me.” In the Bhagavadgita there is a brief statement about it: “You should not behave in such a way that people shrink away from you, nor should you shrink away from them.” This is a harmonious relationship of the so-called external atmosphere—so-called, because it is really not external. As humanity is an organic integrality, to say that society is outside is also not a correct statement. In this concept of the social integration of values, you stand above society. You do not any more remain as a single social unit, but are a representative of humanity as a whole. This is a psychological exercise which is not difficult to understand, and not difficult to practice, because you are growing from less healthy conditions to a more healthy condition. If that taxation is paid, you are allowed inside.
Then the second gatekeeper stops you. All your material entanglements should also be dealt with properly. You cling to money, you cling to property, you cling to your house, and to all the economic values connected with your existence. These are part and parcel of your very bloodstream; you cannot even exist without them. They have to be properly attended to. Will you lose all your property and then go to the Absolute? It will be a shock. “I have a large estate, millions and millions. I have earned it with great difficulty. Do I leave it?” The heart will rebel against this proposal. It is more difficult than the earlier one. As you advance further, the difficulty goes on increasing because you go within yourself more and more. The things outside are not a difficulty. When you go inside yourself, it is a terror. You do not require any instruction on this matter. When you leave this body, what happens to your property? Will you get a shock to hear this, or will you feel, “Nothing is happening to me, I am perfectly all right. The property concept is what has been annoying me.” Property is not a problem. People are not problems. Money and land are also not problems. But you have a particular clinging to them either this way or that way, making it appear as if they totally belong to you as your property. The wealth that is given to you, the property that is bestowed upon you, have to be managed as if you are a trustee—a caretaker, and not a possessor. It is the possessorship that creates the problem within you because if you are a possessor, you cannot leave it. But if you are a trustee, you have a great responsibility over it but you are not the possessor of it, so if you get transferred to another place you will lose nothing.
Nobody can own anything in this world because things are external. What is called property is external. It is not inside your body and, therefore, it cannot be held in the grip of your hand. Even if gold is held tightly in the grip of your hand, it has not become yours because it is still outside and it can drop out of your hand. Anything outside is not your property; and as all property is outside, nothing belongs to you.
These taxation officers do not expect anything from you materially. They expect a transformation of your evaluation of things. Your problem is an evaluation—a mental operation—and not the thing as such. No thing can trouble you; it is your evaluation of things that troubles you.
Here is a person. This person can be considered as many things: your father, your boss, or you can consider the very same person as your servant. You may consider that person as a friend or as an opponent. Now, has the person become so many things in one minute? He is the same person, but your relationship has interpreted him in various ways. It is this interpretation that will cling to you and bite you like a scorpion if you try to move forward without making amends for these attitudes.
All problems are inside you. Your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions are the problems. Do not make complaints against the trees and the mountains, the sun and the stars, and so on. This adjustment to the concept of position, property, belonging, house, relation, etc.—this transvaluation of the values of this kind of relationship that you have with property should be modified into an integral concept, as you did earlier in your social relations. When you are given a clean chit, you enter through that gate.
Then the third gatekeeper stops you. These are the vital longings of your personality. Your pranas urge you in the direction of a kind of satisfaction. The vital longings are well known to people. What are the vital longings? They are the intense desire to live only in this body and not bother about any other body. You would not like to be transferred to someone else’s body; that would be horrible. If permission is granted for you to transfer yourself from your body to another person’s body, would you like it? You cling to your body only, and to none other. “I am only this, and nothing more.” This is one kind of vital attachment.
The second vital longing is for sex. It is a terrible boogie that is before everyone’s eyes, mind or feelings because no one has understood its meaning. Sex is not merely a relationship between a man and a woman. That is only an outer manifestation of an internal longing. You are bound by the time processes, and you know that you are going to die one day. But nobody would like to die. You would like to continue in the process of time, even if this physical body is to pass away. That is the longing for the perpetuation of the species. You want a child to be born to you. The child is a reproduction of your own self, so you feel that you are physically immortalised because you have produced a child. People marry, but they do not know why they marry. It is a hobgoblin in front of them, a great nightmare. Nobody knows that it is a yawning demon wanting to swallow them. You think you must marry, but what is the purpose? Why are you pushed in that direction so vehemently? The species tells you: “You fellows are going to perish. I shall see that your species continues.” The voice of the species is like a terrifying rod telling you that you cannot go without transforming yourself into another form of your own self.
The species cannot perish. It is the rod of time that is punishing you in the form of the longing for the production of children. This urge is called sex. It is not man wanting woman or woman wanting man. That is a misconception. It is something else inside—a devilish urge to perpetuate the physical personality in the form of progeny. Nobody understands this because if it is clear to your mind, you will never go for it. So an illusion is cast by nature for its own purposes: “It is for your good. Go for it! You will be blessed.” This demonical voice that you are hearing from inside is like Satan speaking to Adam and Eve: “Eat the forbidden fruit. How beautiful, how tasty!” When the tasty fruit was eaten, hell descended the next moment. It is said that God kept a flaming sword at the gates of heaven. “Come not here. Go!” You fall down headlong into the perdition of human sorrow. The power of illusion connected with this impulse is so strong that nobody can pierce through it; and while it is a devastation of one’s welfare, it looks like a great blessing.
You must be able to understand this matter. Overcoming the urge of the species is as difficult, or even more difficult, than the urge for possession of material property and social relations. The urge cannot be resisted by the power of will or by any kind of foolish austerity, starvation or by running away. You cannot run away from the devil; it will pursue you wherever you go. Understand the significance of what I have said: You are misguided by the voice of the species, which wants to perpetuate the sorrow of existence.
Schopenhauer was one of the persons who thought about this matter. Why do you hide that part of your body? You can expose your mouth, you can expose your chest, legs and hands, but you always cover that part of the body. This is the demon that is sitting inside, and if you treat it with a callous attitude, the demon’s work will not go on properly. So it is a shame before you, and you do not want to expose your shame. Why is it a shame? You are going to do something devastating to the soul and, therefore, it is a shame. You are guarding your pugnacious attitude which appears to be the beautiful voice of a friend, but it is actually from a satanic manifestation in the form of a snake. Psychologists and psychoanalysts say that the snake represents sexual desire, and those who have intense sexual longing have dreams of snakes. If you are able to visualise the cosmical significance of this urge which is pushing you exteriorly—not internally or universally—by understanding this situation, you will be able to overcome this impulse. A divine universality will take possession of you, and this externalised urge will stop in one second, if you want.
If this is overcome and you pass through, the next gatekeeper is your emotional turmoil. This is very difficult to explain. “Why do I enter the bosom of the Absolute? What will I get from that? I have so many things in this world. The whole world will vanish for me if I have the temerity to think that the Absolute can give me everything. So much is there before me. All the beautiful, grand, wonderful manifestation of this world is there, and it will vanish completely. I, too, will vanish.” Do you hear this statement? You will not be existing there when you enter the Absolute. “Oh, goodbye. Thank you very much! If I am not going to enjoy the bliss of the Absolute because I will not exist there, what is the purpose of this exercise? There is something wrong.” The emotion says, “Be careful. What do you gain by entering the Absolute?” Let anyone answer this question. Nothing that the world can give you can be found there, but the grandfather of all these things, the one who has manufactured all the grandest things in the world, will be there.
These wonderful things that you see in the world are shadows cast by the realities which are the ramifications of the Absolute. Therefore, fear not. Do you want shadows, or do you want the substances which cast the shadows? You go on saying, “I want this, I want that,” but you are running after the shadow of a reality, which is not here. So do not be afraid that you are losing everything, because you yourself are a shadow of another thing which is your original reality, the archetype of your own existence. You are a ref lection of your own Self which is somewhere else; and if you can enter that, do you think you are losing anything? You are gaining yourself. Now you have lost all things by looking at your own shadow existence here and the shadow existence of the world. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the world is a paradise. It is a shadow show, and you must be very cautious about it. So, do not be afraid of what you will find when you enter the Absolute. What you will find cannot be explained. It is wonderful. Your father, grandfather, mother—everybody will be there, and all the wonderful things, beautiful things, ecstasies of this world. They are in the original there; these are shadows dancing here. The ecstasies of earthly life are shadows of a wonderful majestic ecstasy in Reality, and you will see them in the Absolute. You will find yourself in Reality. Are you not happy to hear all these things? Tell the emotions, “I am cleared of all these doubts.” Then the gatekeeper allows you to go through.
Then you have another problem, which is your intellectual convictions. You think you are a Hindu, a Christian or a fundamentalist, and you are the owner of property and are a big man. Name and fame catch hold of you. Who would like to be insignificant? People work hard day in and day out to become important, to gain high positions. Even if they die they do not want their name to be forgotten, so it is engraved on a marble slab to let people know they existed. What a desire to perpetuate their name! Even after the death of the body, they cling to the name that was attached to their personality. The desire for name, fame and respect is so strong that people can commit suicide if this is denied. You can leave everything, discard all things, but if your name is affected, nothing can be worse than that. This is a prejudice that you have, and here your ego is speaking. Previously your emotions and attachment were speaking, and now the ego is speaking. “I am. My name cannot be removed.” This I-am-ness will come and say, “You cannot throw me out like that.”
Here you find yourself in a very difficult situation. Would you like to be a stupid man, unwanted, spat at, a good-for-nothing? “No, this kind of life is no good. I am a wonderful man. I have achieved so much. I have received so much encomium and recognition, and should I throw everything away and go like a pauper to the Absolute?” This is the ego speaking. Tell the gatekeeper that you understand that you have to pay your dues to this erroneous clinging to name and fame. What is there in a name? It is only a sound, a word that people utter, and that word is attached to you. You are thrilled merely because a word is uttered in front of you. Clear these doubts.
When you go through that gate, there is another gatekeeper—the power of causation, the intense action of the notion of the relationship of cause and effect, which is insisting that something has come from something else: God has created the world; there was a time when God sat in heaven and thought, “Let me create the world.” The world is an effect, God is the cause. What is the relationship between the cause and the effect? You do not want to answer this question. Is the effect the same as the cause? Is the pot identical with the clay out of which it is made? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. You cannot say anything. The clay is not the pot, but there is nothing in the pot minus the clay. The clay is the pot, but the clay is not the pot. Now, what is this situation between God and the world? Is the world made up of the substance of God, or has God has created it not out of His substance, but from a material external to Him? There is no ‘external’ to God. It is said that God created the world out of nothing. If that is the case, the world is nothing; it is not created at all.
This is philosophical jugglery and a quandary of a metaphysical nature. Philosophers both in the West and the East have struggled to know what this thing called causation is. Modern physics, in its highest reaches, has denied causation. Nothing is produced by something else; everything is producing everything. The cause is the effect; the effect is the cause. It is like a circular movement of one thing in connection with another. Nothing is produced by anything; things are as they are. But what is it that is actually there? Is it God that is there, or is it matter that is there? These are intellectual quandaries and philosophical doubts that arise in the mind, finally landing upon the difficulty of knowing your relationship with God Himself. Are you a part of God, are you totally different from God, or do you not exist at all in light of the omnipresence of God? These doubts are rational, intellectual, and arise from some deep convictions on account of the logic that you adopt in understanding things. The intellectual and rational attachments also have to go.
If that is cleared and you go further in, the next obstacle is: “God is sitting in heaven. The Absolute is very far from me. There is a great distance between me and the Absolute.” Do you say the Absolute is inside this room? Will anybody say that? You cannot say that; you will be afraid to utter such words. Is the Great Supreme Being inside this room, sitting here looking at you? You think It is something far away, in high heaven. “God is in heaven and all is well in the world,” said the poet.
The concept of distance and the futurity of achievement are also a problem. “Tomorrow I shall have Self-realisation.” You must know that Self-realisation is not in the process of time and, therefore, there is no tomorrow for it. It is eternity. Eternity is not yesterday, today or tomorrow. “I shall attain God.” The word ‘shall’ means a futurity. These are muddles created in the intellectual process of thinking which goes by the name of rational philosophy, metaphysical argument, etc. They must go.
Finally, the concept of space and time comes. Everything is in space and time. The scriptures tell us that heaven is so vast. Whether it is a Hindu paradise, a Muslim paradise or a Christian paradise, it is said that greenery is everywhere, rivers flow, and there are ponds of nectar and other delights. Delights rain from all sides. This is the scriptural description of heaven that is ruled by God Almighty in His wonderful Garden of Eden. You cannot get out of this idea. You are a religious person, so you respect God as the Ruler of the great heavens above the seven levels of being.
If this is cleared, the Great Light opens, and the Master comes out. In the Katha Upanishad we are told that the great aspirant was debarred from having the vision of the great Teacher for three days and three nights. He starved, and stood without eating and drinking.
When Suka, the great seer, was sent by his father, Vyasa, to have an interview with Janaka, the great yogi, the king sent information that he is not available. Suka, the earnest seeker, stood there.
After three days, the king sent messengers, “Let him see the beautiful palace. Show him around, and let me see him afterwards. Take him around the palace. Ask the boy whether he is thirsty, and give him a cup of milk.”
They brought a glass of milk which was filled to the brim, and even the slightest shaking would spill it. Janaka wanted to see how far the boy was in control of his mind, so not only did he give him a cup of milk filled to the brim, he also arranged for wonderful music and dance all around the palace. Grand attractions were presented so that if Suka looked at them, the milk would spill. But the concentration of the boy was so much that he thought only of the milk, as he was told that it was a test of his concentration. He moved around the great palace three times amidst the wonderful music and dance that were going on.
After these tests, Janaka opened the gates and took him inside. “My dear boy, what did you see? For the three days that you were there, I could not see you. Sorry.”
“I saw nothing,” said Suka.
“Did you go around my palace?” asked the king.
“Did you see anything?”
“No, I didn’t see anything. I saw only the milk that was in the cup,” replied Suka.
“Come on, sit,” said the king.
Then a conversation took place on high values that are totally spiritual.
Similar was the case of Nachiketas and Yama. Yama said, “I am very sorry that I was not available for three days and nights. For this mistake that I have inadvertently committed, I ask you to choose three boons.”
Nachiketas chose one boon connected with earthly existence, and another with cosmic existence. For the third boon Nachiketas asked, “What is the fate of the soul after the departure from the body?”
Yama said, “Do not ask this question!”
These tests come gradually, one after the other. If you very intensely aspire for Realisation in this very birth—your longing is flaming like a fire from inside—you will attain it in this birth itself, even before shedding the physical body. But if your aspiration is shallow—you want it, but in a very moderate manner because you want to have this world and the other world also at the same time—then when the body is shed, the mortal coil is cast off, as you have not reached that state, you will take another birth.
The nature of the birth that you take after leaving this body will depend upon the last thought that you entertained at the time of passing—what you were thinking at that moment. Ordinarily, people cannot think at that time; they are confounded. But the intensity of the practice, the momentum of your earlier meditation, etc., will be carried forward like a credit on a balance sheet, and that will push you forward.
Some people are born who, even in early life, are fired with a great consciousness of values. There are precocious children, geniuses even at a young age, all because of their efforts in their previous life. You will be born in a very congenial atmosphere of family relations, yogis, teachers, Gurus, Masters, etc. But if your understanding is perfectly clear, you feel: “I do not want to have another birth. I do not want to be born somewhere and continue my practice. I do not want this tedious exercise. It should end now!” In yoga scriptures, that intensity of longing is called tivra samvega, which is flaming aspiration which burns up all desires, and wants nothing except that. If this longing is persisting, and is burning in your body and soul, melting down your personality, you will realise it in this very birth.